Ben belonged to the last generation that would remember life before implantation, before your boss could send a message at 6 a.m. – to your brain. Some people resisted, at first, staging massive protests… Ben was not one of those people. How could you not see the advantage of having all knowledge in thought’s reach: To pull up any novel by thinking of it, without knowing what it contained?
The glitch – again – there was a glitch – the shattering sound – explosion of steel – burst of seawater – and then – the shark. Snub-nosed, its blue-black hide scarred by a hundred unnamed battles – the shark once again invaded his mind as he stood up to read. It was fitting, at least, for this reading – The Old Man and the Sea- and it tore through the tight prose, scattering the words. He shut down the book and the shark disappeared with the pool of letters.
Briefly, he gave up on reading. It was swimming through his work reports, and, of course, his mistake at trying to sneak a few pages of Moby Dick, but, by Friday, he had to work. Plus, he missed his library. So he called his friend Arn. Arn was a geek. Arn came over.
So this is a problem?
He connected to Ben with a cord between their ears. It had been determined in the early days of implantation that wireless connection between minds was disastrous – all the hacking.
Have you ever looked into a shark’s eyes? There’s nothing in there, man: No soul. There’s nothing about a shark that can be described as even vaguely fucking human. They are the farthest living thing from a human being.
You feel strongly about this.
I’ve always hated them. This totally validates it.
Arn frowned. He wiggled his fingers against his thighs, a physical stand-in for the days when he would have been tapping at a keyboard.
That’s a hack. A really good one.
How the fuck does that happen?
Arn managed to look both empathetic and impressed.
Whoever did this is a genius, and clearly furious at you.
You said it, not me.
So what the fuck do I do?
Way beyond me. Could try to get rid of it, but I might end up trashing your code really badly. You’d have to get re-implanted.
Can’t afford it.
Then you have to talk to Cara, he whispered.
Arn informed him that if Cara could harm his brain like this, she had probably been in there for a while, keeping an eye on him. She had been watching on the weekend before the wedding, he realized, involving someone brought home from the bar, and Cara’s up to that point unused wedding dress, perhaps sacreligious for use, even though they had broken up.
Sunday night, Ben stood up and pulled up a book. Before it went to shit, he concentrated on solidifying the words, making each one into a waterproof brick. It worked for a second: Investing every ounce of his mental strength, straining against Cara’s digital virtuosity, Ben held the shark at bay – literally.
When it broke through, the dynamite effect it normally had on just the book engulfed his entire body. The worst Ben had ever experienced. And there it was, as usual, the shark, with its expressionless mug and its pitiless teeth, the only thing he could see, seeming to smile.
He reached out and touched the shark’s nose – something he had never tried. Its little heart was pulsing and warm in his hand.
word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd
colour by Bart Smeets